Super Mario Run is a greatest hits tour with Nintendo’s biggest star at the helm, delivered to fans in a neat little mobile package. Riding the train, on the toilet, walking into poles or oncoming traffic as you try to make your way to work, you’ll soon realise that it’s hard to put down.
To call Mario Run an endless runner doesn’t do it justice. At its core, Mario will run from left to right; all you need to do is use your thumb to have him jump. He stops whenever and wherever needed — at a pause icon that lets you decide to take the high or low road or on platforms that will slide up and down or left to right.
The affair is as simple or complex as you want it to be. Those after a relaxing time can simply run Mario through a level, content to get to its end flagpole. For others, satisfaction might not be gained all five pink coins scattered across a level have been collected. To get those coins – and in other cases, to simply survive — you’ll need fast reflexes and perfect timing. Taking approximately one minute to finish an average World Tour level, you’ll constantly find yourself deciding to re-run a course in order to gather more coins or best your time.
Rules of the world are somewhat different to those in a regular Mario side-scroller. Our favourite plumber will automatically vault over small obstacles like a single block or small warp-pipe, and does the same for enemies like Goombas and Koopas. You can choose to jump over or onto enemies, with the latter option used to gain a springboard effect in order to reach higher ground. Touching a Piranha Plant or a Spiny could mean Mario’s demise, but that’s dependant on several conditions. Mushrooms are in play (as are Stars), so Super Mario could become mini-Mario at the touch. When miniature, Mario gets two mulligans per level, losing coins but retreating to the safety of New Super Mario World‘s magic bubble in order to have another crack.
Despite a small change in rulesets, Super Mario Run feels like a true Mario game. The World Tour mode currently boasts six unique worlds (of which the first three levels of World 1 are free-to-play), and each level has its own theme. You’ll find Mario running underground, in Ghost Houses, on flying battleships and fighting a number of Bowser’s underlings, all in an attempt to rescue not only Princess Peach, but a yummy cake she’s made.
World Tour’s coin collection is all-too important; those coins buy cosmetic items for Super Mario Run’s title screen. There, you’re given your own version of the Mushroom Kingdom to decorate it as you’d like, using items purchased with your coins. Thankfully, the only way to buy items is with coins earned, not microtransactions purchased (though, you do get a bunch of bonus items for buying the game proper). It’s there you’re also given access to a Bonus House, letting Mario run its special course once every eight hours to try for more coins and Toad Rally tickets.
It’s in Toad Rally where you can really get addicted — if nothing else, the mode is necessary to continue Mushroom Kingdom customisation. Fighting against Nintendo AI or real-world players, Rally pits two players against one another. You’ve a set time to collect coins, but more importantly, look good doing so. The Mario who can complete a level with as much style as possible will come out on top, earning Toad fans – and also stealing those that were previously backing your competitor. The more Toads you have behind you, the more items you can unlock back in the store.
Bite-sized, competitive and a joy to play, Toad Rally offers biggest taste of risk versus reward Mario can bring. I decided to compete against a real-world player from Japan, and in losing to him immediately lost the 150 Toad fans I’d begun to amass over five separate Rally wins. I was heartbroken, but more importantly, I was determined to claw my way back. That campaign was hampered, sadly, when my game continued to fall victim to blackspots that dot the Frankston train line here in Melbourne. Without an actual connection to outside world, I wasn’t able to play — talk about a buzzkill.
Super Mario Run is the perfect implementation of Nintendo’s biggest star in mobile form. While it’s hard to deny the success of Pokémon Go, Niantic’s mobile offering doesn’t truly capture the heart and soul of the franchise it belongs to. Super Mario Run excels in that department, offering a title that’ll have you constantly coming back for more.
Super Mario Run was reviewed using a promotional code on iOS, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.